Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

Spanish singer Buika brings her Chavela Vargas tribute to Denver


Spanish singer Buika performs Nov. 3 at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts.

Paying tribute to her musical idols is nothing new for Spanish singer Concha Buika, better known simply as Buika. From 2000–01, she performed in Las Vegas as a Tina Turner impersonator, but last year she got even more serious about homage as she teamed with Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes to record El Último Trago (The Last Drink), a jazzed-up collection of traditional ranchera songs made famous by 91-year-old Costa Rican singer Chavela Vargas. The album is nominated for two Latin Grammy awards.

Buika will perform songs from El Último Trago and more on Nov. 3 at DU’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts. Her traveling band includes pianist Iván “Melon” Lewis, bassist Dany Noe and percussionist Fernando Favier.

“Buika is a wonderful singer with an interesting life story,” says Steve Seifert, executive director of the Newman Center. “Her parents are from Equatorial Guinea in Africa, and they fled to Majorca and became Spanish citizens. She eventually found her way into music and built a career singing. This show is touring the U.S. as a tribute to Chavela Vargas, which we decided to do because this year is the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence — and because I love the songs.”

Her love for musical styles ranging from flamenco to soul to jazz already have led Buika to collaborate with genre-hopping artists such as Seal and Nelly Furtado, but it was another collaboration that led to the Vargas tribute. Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, who has featured Vargas in several of his movies, asked Buika to sing a Vargas song in his upcoming film “La Piel Que Habito.” He was so impressed with the results that he pushed her to record an entire album of Vargas-associated tunes.

“Buika belongs to a lineage of artists that is found very rarely,” Almodovar wrote on his blog, comparing the singer to icons like Edith Piaf and Judy Garland. “Her voice has an unusual color and a very wide tessitura, gifted for the most intimate caress and for the deafening shriek. Buika only knows how to sing ‘with her heart ripped apart.’ So young, she makes me tremble because she gives the impression that each performance is the definitive one, the last one.”

Buika performs at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 in DU’s Gates Concert Hall, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. A free “Behind the Curtain” lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $32–$48; visit for tickets and more information.

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